We continue our draft preview of my book-in-progress, Dash: Into Space!, an alien abduction comedy. If you’re just tuning in, catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 at the links. The last thing Dash remembers is facing down Max’s onrushing truck. After that, things got strange. This week: things get even stranger!
Chapter 7: Dash Wakes Up
Dash shuddered and twitched and was awake.
He lay face down in a large puddle of what felt like snail slime. He gagged and retched and rolled onto his side and coughed up a big clout of disgusting clear goop.
He was naked.
Also thirsty. Hungry. And cold.
The floor beneath him was a hard, smooth surface, faintly iridescent, like a soap bubble in the sun.
Dash sat up. He groaned. His head throbbed like someone was rapidly expanding and deflating balloons inside it. He blinked. The room was lit with a strange blue light that came from no discernible source. The glow hung in the air like a mist of fine sparks.
A thin crust of crud coated his body. It was like when you have a runny nose and snot dries all around your nostrils. Except this was all over. Flakes of crud fell off him with every move. He brushed the stuff off his face and shook it out of his hair like dandruff from hell.
He looked around. He was in a small room. The walls curved up seamlessly into a domed ceiling so that he appeared to be inside a big silvery-white faintly iridescent egg.
What is this place?
Dash stood with care. The floor was slippery, like fresh-mopped tiles. He shuffled clear of the slime puddle. He saw no door, no windows or vents or any sort of exit.
“Hello?” he croaked. His throat felt constricted from long disuse. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
No one answered.
Is this a dream? Like that dream where I’m at school and naked and there is a big test and I haven’t studied for it because I didn’t know about it? He was naked. But this was far stranger than the go-to-school-naked dream.
Dash pressed his hand against the wall. It was cool to the touch. He couldn’t tell what it was made of. Some kind of metal or ceramic or composite, but nothing he could name.
What can I remember? His mind felt strangely blank. He couldn’t remember anything except the past few minutes.
And that naked school dream.
He concentrated harder. A jumble of images flashed through his brain. Loud music. Riding in the Jeep. Studying with Astrid. A light in the sky. And pain. Lots of pain.
Oh, right. Max and Billy and the cornfield.
And Max’s truck.
And the bright light.
Max ran over me with his truck!
This was starting to make sense. He must be in the hospital. Intensive care. He had to be pretty doped up on painkillers after being hit by a truck, right? Morphine or whatever. He was probably in a coma. Or hallucinating.
More images came to him. Three freaky little dudes. The cow.
Okay, harder to explain.
But, might the freaky little dudes in tinfoil suits be…his doctors? Distorted through an opiate haze?
Or maybe they were Aunt Emma and Uncle Hans and…Astrid?
Would she come see me in the hospital?
Sure she would. After all, it was her psycho ex-boyfriend who ran over him. She must feel pretty bad about that. Maybe she hadn’t left his side.
And the cow head?
Well…he’d figure out the cow part later.
So if I’m unconscious, this egg room must be my brain’s interpretation of…of…the inside of an MRI scanner?
He remembered a bright light. A floating sensation.
That was surgery, right? Anesthesia kicking in. The bright lamps in the O.R. shining down while doctors struggled to save his life.
I must be messed up pretty bad.
At least he could still walk.
Or, at least, he could still imagine he could walk.
Which was something.
But none of these explanations were entirely convincing.
Why was he naked? Even in the hospital, they give you those gowns. He had nothing on, not a stitch.
Not even a surgical stitch. He looked himself over. Not a bruise. Not a scratch. No surgical scar. Nothing.
A disturbing thought occurred to Dash.
What if I’m dead?
Bright light, floating—classic near death experience. Maybe too near. Maybe he was on the other side. This could be heaven.
Or this could be hell.
Either way, it was a pretty slackass afterlife.
I don’t feel dead.
He felt hungry, thirsty, and cold. And scared.
Dash beat on the wall with both fists, shouting, “Hey! Somebody let me out of here! Let me out of here!”
He heard a pneumatic hiss behind him.
Dash turned. In the opposite wall an aperture spiraled open like the lens shutter on a camera.
The old non-digital kind.
“Hello?” said Dash.
He crossed to the opening, peered through it to see an empty corridor that curved away in both directions. It was made of the same stuff as the egg-shaped room, but there were undulating ripples along the walls and ceiling. It looked like the inside of a big corrugated pipe.
This was no hospital.
“Hello!” called Dash. “Who’s there?”
The walls seemed to absorb the sound of his voice.
Dash stepped through the opening. He covered his crotch with both hands, suddenly very conscious of being naked. Whose eyes he was covering up from, he wasn’t sure.
“Is anyone here?” he called.
A loud, piercing, high-pitched screech, like the worst amp feedback ever, filled the corridor. Dash forgot any attempt at modesty and covered his ears.
“Yow! Turn it off!” he shouted.
The screech ended. He heard a new sound coming from somewhere down the corridor. An oddly familiar sound. It was like the rumble of a bowling ball rolling down the lane at Tornado Alley, the tacky little bowling spot in Plainsville. Dash didn’t go there often, since he usually had to work on the farm, but he knew that sound.
This was something much bigger than a bowling ball. It was coming his way fast. And Dash didn’t see any bowling pins.
He turned to step back into the egg-shaped room. But the opening he had emerged from was gone, sealed, erased as if it never existed.
Dash started to back slowly down the corridor.
Then, suddenly, it rolled into view.
It was a sphere, about the size of one of those big exercise balls at the gym.
It glowed. Its surface was translucent and there were strange lights inside. Blobs of light and strings of light and rods of light and pulsing shapes of light that disturbingly resembled that diagram of the parts of a cell he had huddled over with Astrid what seemed like a hundred years ago. There was a throbbing white light deep down under all the rest, but mostly blues, greens, purple and indigo, with a few flashes of yellow and orange, all swirling and flowing together like a big snow globe full of fireworks.
The glowing ball raced toward him, with no sign of slowing.
And that’s Chapter 7, folks!
No one said dashing into space would be easy. Or make sense. Be here next episode, when Dash says: “This is the most exhausting dream I’ve ever had.”
Thanks for reading!